Thursday, November 11, 2010

Steeve, our psychosocial coordinator and Mary Lourdes, one of the nurses with me
Juna, one of the nurses teaching at the camp in Delmas

Somelia, one of the nurses, teaching

Teaching the Friends about the resilient nervous system by waving a sheet

Steeve supervising a practice session
Training in the tent at Croix des Bouquets

We just ended our second day of training in the camps for the "Friends"- camp residents (many older people beneficiaries themselves). The training yesterday at Delmas was really hot and crowded in a pretty small tent for 38 of us, but it went great. The camps are pretty grim places- hot, crowded, dirty, tense on the verge of cholera and constant hunger. Our tent however was extremely spirited with lots of singing and dancing led by everyone- facilitators and trainees at different times, creating lots of energy intermingled with painful stories and earnest learning. My trainees from the previous 3 day training all jumped into the water with quite a bit of success. Many of the Friends at Delmas were educated, some teachers, who picked it up pretty quickly. Others were slower but started to get it after practice sessions. The stories in the practice sessions where Friends all got a chance to be the "patient", were crushing, filled with so much loss, horror and devastation. But so many were able to identify resources that allowed them to make a shift from heaviness, palpitations, muscle tension, bodily pain to a calmer, lighter balanced nervous system place. They were incredibly appreciative,and began inroads to learning the Trauma Resiliency skills of tracking, grounding and resourcing based on Somatic Experiencing principles. I cannot imagine any other therapeutic modality that would be more appropriate for Haitians in the camps. They carry so much of their emotional lives in their bodies, true to Scaer's work that the body does bear the burden of trauma. The facilitators are getting excited seeing this work in the camps. We all were very quiet on the ride home, pleased, exhausted, and sobered.
Today's camp at Croix des Bouquets was a totally different story. The camp was the last thing you will ever see resembling a Cross of Flowers. It was very rough, this time no USAID nice tents like Delmas, but only makeshift tarps of any which kind of material held together by duct tape. It is next to a polluted river filled with garbage and I saw no clean water source. Don't know about the latrines there either, even if there are any. I continue to be amazed that in an 8 hour day out I never feel the urge to pee. It doesn't even cross my mind. I guess when you know your only option is the Haitian squat, it leaves your possibility sphere.
The Friends in this camp were mostly illiterate and much slower to get the concepts. We were in a much bigger tent this time, which was lots better in terms of air moving through, but there was the loudest generator going the whole time we had to practically yell. The whole training just felt more chaotic to me. And certainly I chuckle to myself thinking about our American standards of what a training venue should look like, and what the educational credentials of those trained should look like. After this, I think doing a training like this in a screeching NYC subway station would feel like a conference room in the Ritz Carlton next to this. The nurses made a quantum leap in their teaching skills today, which was encouraging to me. But the Friends had a much harder time grasping the skills. They were convinced the way to help their older people was to tell them to forget about their painful thoughts and pray to Jesus. It took a lot to try to convince them that while it would be great if we could just forget about our painful thoughts, but it just isn't that easy. When we could get them to think of a specific time that they remembered really feeling the presence of Jesus being with them, and notice what happened in their bodies when they thought about it, then we could use their faith as a resource to re-stabilize their nervous system. So far, my experience with most of the Haitian camp residents is that their faith has been strengthened since the earthquake, deeply believing that God has and will bring them through this, as well as their lifetime of adversity.
All that said, the Friends were quite attentive , joyful in their singing, and very engaging and appreciative. Pretty amazing.
Cholera on the rise. Ndaro says Haiti is in for cholera for years. Deaths up to 700. No fruits and vegetables for me this trip.

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